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Ag Adviser Returns from Tour in Afghanistan, Culminating 35-Year Career at NRCS

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By Kim Betton

USDA Ag adviser Drew Adam conducts soils test lab training to teachers and students from Pul e Alam

USDA Agricultural Adviser Drew Adam conducts soils test lab training to teachers and students from Pul e Alam Agricultural High School in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy: Salih Samim, Logar Province

: Drew Adam, a long-time conservationist with NRCS, served in Afghanistan on two different tours. Ph

Drew Adam, a long-time conservationist with NRCS, served in Afghanistan on two different tours. Photo courtesy: Salih Samim, Logar Province

Drew Adam meets with members from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and NRCS  in Washington,

Drew Adam meets with members from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and NRCS  in Washington, DC after returning  from Afghanistan in July 2014. Left to right:  NRCS: Marita McCree, Linda Risden, James “Drew” Adam, Herby Bloodworth, Lillian Woods and Bruce Crossan (FAS) Photo courtesy:  Kim Betton, USDA NRCS Public Affairs Division

Map of agricultural area in Logar Province, just south of Kabul province.  Photo courtesy:  Agricult

Map of agricultural area in Logar Province, just south of Kabul province.  Photo courtesy:  Agricultural Adviser Drew Adam, USDA NRCS

It has been 35 productive years at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for James “Drew” Adam. The NRCS District Conservationist from Vermont is retiring on a “high note” after recently serving in Afghanistan as agricultural adviser.

Adam worked on the Provincial Reconstruction Team alongside his Afghan counterparts in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, or GIRoA, to ensure the viability of agricultural growth and development in the country.

He went abroad for two deployments, serving six months in 2005 and 18 months in 2012-2014. And this second and final assignment in Afghanistan served as one of his most monumental conservation projects at the agency.

“It makes me feel good that Afghanistan was the highlight of my career in terms of job experience,” Adam said. “When I went there the first time it was a great experience. And this time around I knew I was going to be retiring shortly, and I wanted to end my career on a similar high note.”

USDA’S National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) reports agriculture in Afghanistan employs more than 80 percent of Afghanistan’s labor force and generates more than 40 percent of its economic output. Afghanistan’s high valued crops include wheat, barley, corn, cotton, wild liquorish plant, fruit and nuts. Livestock is also very resourceful in the area.

Adam mentored Afghan farmers on a variety of agricultural and conservation practices in poor and rural communities nestled along the shallow valleys of the mountainous, desert country. These practices included irrigation techniques, planting and harvesting techniques, soil analysis and perimeter fencing. He also conducted workshops with his Afghan colleagues for high school students.

“Afghans were very grateful for our assistance,” Adam said. “They realized that USDA and the American people were there to help them create better agricultural concepts to enhance conservation initiatives and economic development. It is very rewarding to realize how much our work is appreciated.”

As part of USDA’s efforts to support the U.S. Government’s Agricultural Strategy for Afghanistan, since 2003 the USDA Agricultural Adviser Program provided experts to help improve productivity, food security and rural incomes in Afghanistan. This included building the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock at headquarters, provincial and district levels.

The mission also provided support for agribusiness development in concert with the ministry’s district offices and private-sector partners. The peak of the mission was in 2011 when USDA had 51 advisers at military installations throughout Afghanistan. The program which phases out this September has deployed more than 200 advisers since its inception.

VIDEO - Watch as Drew Adam speaks more about his experience as Agricultural Adviser working with Afghan educators and producers on youth initiatives. Video: Click here.